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Imposing tax rules outside OECD structure unacceptable: CARICOM SG

The arbitrary imposition of tax governance and anti-money laundering rules by countries and groups of countries other than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), without meaningful consultation with the affected States, is unacceptable.

This was the position of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, during his address to the opening ceremony of the 40th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM. The meeting opened on Wednesday evening – 3 July 2019 – at the Royalton St Lucia Resort.

Today, Thursday 4 July 2019, under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister Allen Chastanet of Saint Lucia, Heads began two days of deliberations on a packed agenda which prioritised matters related to regional economic resilience.

In his address the Secretary-General pointed out the “insidious” nature of blacklisting CARCOM jurisdictions, particularly when similar action against larger economies has had to be withdrawn.

CARICOM has consistently articulated the concern that blacklisting of its Member States and Associate Members as non-co-operative tax jurisdictions, undermines the economic resilience of those countries.

Describing the practice as a “clear and direct threat to the economic well-being” of countries in the Region, the Secretary-General said CARICOM Member States “have a sovereign right to determine their fiscal policy.”

“Our compliance with the regulatory measures and standards for tax transparency set by the OECD, the recognised global authority, is being disregarded by others.

Such behaviour undermines global rule-making and the multilateral system which we as small states depend on to ensure we have a voice,” Ambassador LaRocque said.

He said CARICOM therefore welcomes the election of St. Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations Security Council.

“The candidate of the Caribbean Community is the smallest ever country to be elected to that prestigious body.  The work put in by Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, and the representatives of St. Vincent and Grenadines as well as their CARICOM counterparts was bolstered by the regard in which our Community is held in international fora.  This resulted in the overwhelming acclamation of 185 of the 193 voting countries.”

He noted that those countries appreciate the principled positions to which CARICOM Member States adhere and the respect they show for the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter.

“CARICOM Member States have upheld non-interference and non-intervention in the internal affairs of states, prohibition of the threat and use of force, respect for sovereignty, adherence to the rule of law, respect for the constitutional framework and democracy, and the right of people to self-determination,” the Secretary-General told the opening ceremony.

He said the upcoming series of High-Level Meetings during the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, in September, will provide a platform to pursue the interests of small states. 

“As a Community of Small Island and low-lying coastal Developing States (SIDS), CARICOM recognises the importance of these high-level dialogues, with their emphasis on issues related to Climate Change, Sustainable Development and Financing for Development,” Secretary-General LaRocque said, adding:

“It must be recognised in these discussions that SIDS have peculiar characteristics which differentiate them not only from developed countries but also from other developing countries.”

Reaffirming CARICOM’s position that the special circumstances of SIDS need to be considered in assessing their eligibility for concessional development financing. Secretary-General LaRocque informed that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has concluded that CARICOM Member States “exhibit extreme versions of long-term low growth, high debt, significant vulnerabilities and limited resilience to shocks which set them apart from other middle-income states.”

However, he bemoaned, CARICOM Member States have been graduated from full access to multilateral concessional financing. 

“If we are to build resilience, which we must, and which is a very costly proposition, we need access to concessional financing prior to the onset of a natural disaster. Studies by the IMF and the World Bank indicate that every dollar spent in building resilience saves four in reconstruction costs after a disaster,” the CARICOM Secretary-General said.